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New OCR Guidance on Sexual Misconduct

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Legal
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October 2, 2017

This past week, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued an interim guidance document on campus sexual misconduct in advance of final rule making on schools’ responsibilities under Title IX to respond to sexual misconduct complaints. The document is in Q&A form and may be found here

Most significantly changed from previous guidance is the addition of a new evidentiary standard that schools can apply in determining whether campus sexual misconduct has occurred. Schools may now choose to apply either “preponderance of the evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence” in making that determination. Schools must, however, be consistent in which standard is used from case to case.

Also of note is that under the new interim guidance, schools can choose to offer an appeal to either both parties or to only the respondent. Previously schools had to offer an equal appeal opportunity to both parties.

Finally, the Department of Education rescinded its 2011 OCR Dear Colleague Letter and 2014 Questions and Answers guidance. The new interim guidance document pointed out that schools are still bound under any existing voluntary OCR resolution agreements entered into prior to the rescission.

About the Author

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Terri Thomas

Director of Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC.  Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS) from 1999 to 2015 and represents many school districts throughout all parts of the state.

It’s no accident that Terri wound up practicing school law.  She grew up in the school business. Terri’s father, the late Howard Thomas, was a school superintendent for 25 years in several Oklahoma school districts, including Pauls Valley—Terri’s hometown—and Ardmore. After graduating from Pauls Valley High School, Terri received her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

She and her husband, Norman Thompson, and their 8-year old daughter, Mary, reside in Oklahoma City.